Mayor Fischer, local faith leaders call for community's help to fight coronavirus
Mayor Greg Fischer today urged local churches, mosques, synagogues, and other houses of worship to aid in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic by cancelling religious services.
The Mayor acknowledged that cancelling services is "a very, very significant request," but said it's a prudent measure to prevent congregants from possibly contracting and spreading the COVID-19 virus.
Gov. Andy Beshear has made a similar request to religious leaders throughout Kentucky.
"The work of these leaders and the communities they represent is how we’ve earned a reputation as one of the world’s most compassionate cities," Mayor Fischer said. "Moments like this are why we work to develop our social muscles, why we embrace the idea of many faiths, one heart."
The Mayor said the community must take extreme but proactive social distancing measures now, to avoid much bigger problems down the road. "We are taking these steps because the best public health information we have makes it clear that they’re necessary," Mayor Fischer said. "We’ve looked around the country and the world and seen what happens when this disease gets out of control."
Leaders of the Louisville faith community affirmed the need to take these precautions and offered assurances that they align with religious teachings on caring for others.
"We decided to cancel services in accordance with Gov. Beshear’s request, as well as to uphold the Jewish teaching of 'pikuach nefesh,' which means saving a life," said Rabbi Beth Jacowitz Chottiner of Temple Shalom. "We can each observe the Sabbath at home while keeping members of our congregation safe."
Dr. Muhammad Babar, founder of Muslim Americans for Compassion, said cancelling religious services protects everyone, not just the people who might be attending.
"As people of faith, it is a calling upon us to take every measure to not only protect ourselves but also community at large from COVID-19," said Dr. Babar. "Many local Islamic Centers have cancelled Friday prayer services by following the recommendation of Gov. Beshear and Mayor Fischer, to prevent the spread of coronavirus by avoiding close personal contact in large gatherings."
Southeast Christian Church, Louisville's largest faith community, announced earlier this week that it is cancelling large gatherings as a precaution. "We love our community and, as followers of Jesus, we continue to be committed to doing everything we can to protect and serve those who are most vulnerable. As a church, we are not gathering in person for worship services this weekend; instead we are gathering online via live-streaming and social media," said Tim Hester, Southeast Christian's executive pastor. "Today, we hosted an online event to share creative ideas with our church family on how to love our neighbors. We stand united with our community and leaders in oneness, as we overcome this crisis together."
Sarah Riggs Reed, managing director of the Center for Interfaith Relations, said now is a time to reflect on our shared responsibility to show care and concern for the wellbeing of others. "This situation is a reminder of our interconnectedness and how cooperative action can make a real difference in the lives of those around us," Reed said. "Meanwhile, we suggest that at this time we seek out the resources that nourish and sustain us during these uncertain times."
Bishop Leonard Fairley of the Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church said he stands with churches that decide to stop holding services during the pandemic. "Please keep in mind that many of our congregants are in the demographics that are most vulnerable to COVID-19: Adults over 60 years old," Bishop Fairley said.
On Thursday, Louisville Metro Government (LMG) cancelled all city-sponsored and permitted events though April 5 and is postponing the annual Give A Day Week of Service, which was to run April 15 to 25.
"I know that some of these steps create disruptions for families and businesses that are difficult, even painful," Mayor Fischer said. "That’s why I appreciate the Metro Council working on a $2.7 million package to provide housing and food aid for families most affected by these sudden changes in the day-to-day life of our city."
Mayor signs Executive Order
Mayor Fischer also announced that he’d signed an Executive Order to address issues related to ensuring Louisville Metro Government is able to continue providing necessary services, protect the health of city employees and mitigate any negative impact on LMG. (Click to read Executive Order)
“The nature of city government is so varied, from 24-7 public safety to back-office billing, so we have to have some discretion by departments on how we do this,” he said.
The Mayor said the city Department of Human Resources has developed an emergency paid sick leave policy for employees who are in medically directed isolation, as well as greater direction on telework and other workplace options.
City to provide frozen meals to seniors
Mayor Fischer also announced today that the Office of Resilience and Community Services will be providing 26,000 frozen meals to people over 60 starting next week.
The meals will be distributed through five community centers throughout the city and the East Government Center, starting on Tuesday. Seniors can get five meals at a time and return the following week for another five meals.
"And we'll be following best practices for hygiene and social distancing during the distribution process," the Mayor said.
Social Distancing and Good Hygiene
Mayor Fischer and Dr. Sarah Moyer, the city's chief health strategist, again emphasized common sense steps everyone can take to prevent the virus from spreading.
"I know there’s a great deal of concern and anxiety about this," the Mayor said. "And concern is warranted. We should all take this seriously. But don’t panic. Prepare."
The city has asked everyone to take the following actions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue.
- Avoid contact with sick people, and stay home if you are sick.
- Call your healthcare provider if you are concerned that you have contracted COVID-19.
- Rather than shaking hands, for the time being, greet each other with an elbow bump.
- And, if you have questions, please call the Kentucky Coronavirus hotline at 1-800-722-5725, or visit Kycovid19.ky.gov.
- Keep your distance, but stay in touch
Mayor Fischer reminded the community to stay connected, no matter how much physical distance we place between ourselves.
"While it’s a good idea to keep a physical distance between us, we can – and should – stay connected to each other in this challenging time," the Mayor said. "Reach out to your friends, your neighbors and your community members. Remember that every household in our city and households around the world are having some version of the same conversation."
"We’ll meet and overcome this challenge like we have the ones that came before – by coming together and doing what has to be done."